To the Moon! Part III: Moon Mining

In this blog’s long and storied history, I’ve been a consistent advocate of space exploration, with a particular interest in lunar colonization.  An enduring frustration of this blog is that the United States has satiated its thirst for exploration with the numbing effects of consumer technologies.  Yes, we can FaceTime one another from halfway around the globe and can set our thermostats remotely so the house is cooled down before we arrive—all wonderful conveniences—but is that truly the apex of human endeavor?  Is being comfortable really the point of it all?

There was a time when we dreamed of exploring the stars, or at least of visiting our nearest celestial neighbors.  But that drive for adventure dissipated—or, perhaps, exploded—sometime in the 1980s.  The Age of The Virus further highlights our society’s obsession with safety, an obsession anathema to the derring-do necessary to explore the stars.

To paraphrase Bill Whittle, we’ll know we’re serious about space exploration when our graveyards are filled with astronauts.

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Lazy Sunday XII: Space

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Long-time readers will know that I have a love of and fascination with space.  One of the first calls I ever made to a talk-radio show was back in 2009 to the now-defunct Keven Cohen Show.  The occasion was the fortieth anniversary of the moon landing, and the question was, in the midst of the Great Recession, should the government invest in space exploration and going to the moon (and beyond)?  In my clumsy call, I argued that, yes, it should.

As I noted earlier this week, I lack a strong technical foundation in these matters.  I assume that any practice problems of exploration, colonization, and exploitation of space are, ultimately, technical in nature, and will eventually get figured out.  My interest is more philosophical and political in nature:  what are the possibilities of space?  What benefits could expansion into space offer?

But, really, I’m just a childlike nerd who wants to walk on the moon.  If I’m being totally honest, that’s my primary motivation:  I want to visit the moon.  I also relish the idea of humans partaking in bold space adventures.  Is it any wonder one of my favorite movies of all time is Guardians of the Galaxy?

And I’m not alone.  According to (yet another) Rasmussen poll, 43% of American voters would take a trip to the moon and back given the chance.  That total includes 56% of men, but just 31% of women, so I suppose all those single moms posting on Facebook about loving their children “to the moon and back” is a sentimental expression, not a concrete pledge.

Here’s hoping that the eggheads at NASA and in the private sector take note of all the Americans eager to engage in some lunar tourism.  Market forces are far more likely to incentivize galactic expansion than government programs, so maybe offering affordable round-trip flights to the moon could one day turn a profit.  Who knows?

What I do know is that this Sunday I’m happy to share my various posts on space.  I hope you “love them to the moon and back”:

  • America Should Expand into Space” – this post was the topic of Thursday’s “TBT” feature.  As such, I’ll refrain from lengthy pontificating about it.  Essentially, it looks at the geopolitical reasons for expansion into space.  Short version:  don’t let the Chinese build a death laser on the moon!
  • Breaking: President Trump Creates Space Force” & “Why the Hate for Space Force?” – back in June 2019, President Trump announced the creation of “Space Force” as a separate branch of the armed services.  It’s a bold, visionary idea—and a damn good one.  As “America Should Expand into Space” suggests, space is the next frontier, not just for settlement, but for war.

    I also lament in the latter of these twin pieces that Americans no longer look boldly to the future in space as a new frontier, but instead remain firmly earthbound with various toys and gadgets.

  • To the Moon!” – this brief essay explores the metaphysical and cultural benefits of lunar colonization.  In it, I summarize the ideas of an oddball writer, James D. Heiser.  Heiser is a bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America and a founding member of the Mars Society.

    He wrote a book,  Civilization and the New Frontier:  Reflections on Virtue and the Settlement of a New World, about the colonization of Mars.  In Civilization and the New Frontier, Heiser argues that the strenuous nature of such an endeavor would require and cultivate virtue, thereby reinvigorating our civilization.

    It’s an intriguing idea, and one that rings true:  anything worth doing is (usually) difficult.  The sacrifice that such a mission would require is self-evident, and would require men and women of great virtue and courage to achieve.

  • To the Moon!, Part II: Back to the Moon” – this post discussed NASA’s acceleration of its timetable for another manned mission to the moon.  The goal is to return by 2024, rather than 2028.  It would be the first manned mission to the moon since 1972—a sobering, depressing duration.  When I was a kid, we were told we’d see a manned mission to Mars by the year 2000.  So much for that.

As the preamble to this list demonstrated, there is hunger for holidays on the moon.  I, too, want to ride the mighty moon worm!  Sure, there are huge technical problems to overcome—but those can be overcome.  Let’s worry less about queer studies outreach Islamic countries.  Our destiny is among the stars!

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

TBT: America Should Expand into Space

On Tuesday, I wrote about NASA’s quest to put humans back on the moon by 2024Space exploration and strategic dominance in space were early topics on this blog.

Indeed, today’s #TBT, “American Should Expand into Space,” was one of the first posts of the TPP 3.0 Era.  The piece looks at the “heartland theory” of geopolitics, and applies that 115-year old concept to space.  “He who controls space, controls the future,” or something like that.

It’s a compelling argument, and while I can’t take credit for applying this particular theory to space—I didn’t know about “heartland theory” until reading Captain Hendrix’s National Review piece about it—I’ve long argued that if the United States doesn’t expand into space first, our enemies will.  You’d better believe the ChiComs wouldn’t hesitate to point a lunar laser at Washington, D.C. (hmm… perhaps not the worst of outcomes) given half the chance.

But I digress.  Here’s hoping a combination of public and private investment in space exploration will yield a new era of boldly conquering the stars.  Here is June 2018’s “America Should Expand into Space“:

Retired U.S. Navy Captain Jerry Hendrix has a piece up at National Review Online entitled “Space: The New Strategic Heartland” in which he urges Congress and the Department of Defense to establish a “Space Force” and to get serious about space exploration and colonization.  It’s an excellent read, and makes some compelling points about why space is, truly, the final frontier.

Captain Hendrix bases his analysis in “heartland theory,” developed in 1904 by British geographer Halford Mackinder.  114 years ago, Mackinder argued that the “heartland” of future geostrategic conflict was Eurasia.  Decades later, as Hendrix explains, former President Richard Nixon wrote that the Middle East and Africa—with their vast mineral resources—would hold the key to determining the victor in the Cold War (influence in these regions, Nixon argued, would determine whether capitalism or communism would prevail).

Now, Hendrix makes the case that space is the new “heartland,” and makes some intriguing points to that effect.  Anyone who has followed the career and writings of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich will be familiar with these arguments; indeed, a decade ago I wrote a rough draft of a paper arguing for lunar colonization on similar grounds.

To summarize, they are as follows:

  • China and Russian are looking to disrupt America’s dominance in communications, entertainment, and strategic defense, which we enjoy because of our preeminence in space—think of how disruptive it would be to lose communications or military satellites, which the Chinese are already targeting.
  • Automated construction and manufacturing in space provide the capability to build and launch deep-space rockets more cheaply (the gravity of the moon is one-sixth that of Earth’s), allowing for more cost-effective space exploration.
  • The free market will—and already has!—get more involved in space exploration.  There are meteorites with more gold than has ever been mined on Earth.  Consider, too, China’s dominance of rare-earth metals, which are abundantly available in the space, particularly the asteroid belt.

If space is going to remain a competitive domain, the United States will have to take the lead.  I shudder to think of a Chinese controlled-moon, for example.  I know it sounds batty, but do you really want the Chinese constructing a lunar death laser?  They have the manpower and disregard for human life to do it.

There is room, too, for a conservative approach to space exploration, and we shouldn’t reflexively recoil at government involvement in this regard, so long as it’s done the right way.  Just like the Homestead Act of 1862 (Gingrich actually proposed a “Homestead Act” for the moon!) or the role of the federal government in leasing lands for railroad companies, Congress can provide the framework for space exploration and colonization that would allow the free-market and private enterprise to kick in and work their magic.

What we should avoid is a bureaucracy that is so obsessed with “safety” and “diversity” that our space program is stillborn in its terrestrial cradle.  Fortunately, there is a way forward, and Newt Gingrich delivers again.

Shortly after winning the South Carolina Republican presidential primary in 2012, Gingrich gave a speech in Florida in which he promised that, by the end of his second term as President (sigh… if only), we’d have a colony on the moon.  When he gave this speech, I began hooping like a silver-backed gorilla—and immediately donated $100 from my meager 2012 salary to his campaign.  He was widely derided for this position, but John F. Kennedy made a similarly bold claim in his young presidency—and, sure enough, by 1969, we had a man on the moon.

Since then, Gingrich has remained a strong supporter of space exploration.  Indeed, he’s written on the topic twice recently, and I would encourage readers to explore his ideas further (I should note that I am heartened to see so many writers suddenly taking an interest in space exploration again).

1.) “A Glimpse of America’s Future in Space in 2024” (22 April 2018):  http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/04/22/newt-gingrich-glimpse-america-s-future-in-space-in-2024.html

2.) “Entrepreneurs will change space exploration (31 May 2018):  https://good-politic.com/newt-gingrich-entrepreneurs-will-change-space-exploration/2614/

The economy is swinging again, American patriotism is back in style, and President Trump is a bold reformer who dreams and acts big (league).  America is perfectly poised to build upon our already substantial lead in space exploration, and frontiers are our specialty.

Let’s go to Mars!  Let’s build a colony on the moon!  Let’s mine asteroids!

To the Moon!, Part II: Back to the Moon

I’ve long been an advocate for space exploration.  I don’t possess any deep technical knowledge of aviation or aeronautics; I just think the idea of colonizing the moon is cool, and that space holds forth endless opportunities.

In the context of our own nation’s history, space exploration and colonization take on an additional significance:  space is a new frontier for liberty.  People cross the Atlantic to settle the New World, in part because of the promise of being left alone to pursue their own destinies.  What is space but a boundless, inky ocean to be crossed?  What are new worlds but potential bastions of hardscrabble liberty?

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about space exploration or lunar colonization, but today’s Scott Rasmussen Number of the Day brought the topic back to my attention.  The occasion is NASA’s announcement that it plans to put humans back on the moon by 2024—four years earlier than previously scheduled.

The rationale behind the accelerated schedule is political:  NASA officials wager that they have a better chance of accomplishing the mission prior to a change in executive administrations.  The Trump Administration has vocally supported revitalizing NASA’s role in space exploration, and Space Policy Directive 1 ordered the return by 2028 following an executive order.

A manned mission to the moon would be the first one since Apollo 17 in 1972.  If NASA succeeds in its mission, the proposed 2024 landing would be the first time a human has set foot on the lunar surface in fifty-two years—a short lifetime.

Rasmussen’s poll found that 37% of voters believe NASA will get humans back to the moon before private companies.  36% believe it will be the other way around.  59% of Americans think both NASA and private companies should be tackling space exploration—a rather prudent opinion, I would argue, though I’d like to see the private sector continue to expand in this area.

Another interesting number from the polling:  60% of men are okay with the additional $1.6 billion in funding this year that would get the project moving, while only 41% of women approve.  That’s an interesting gender gap, but not a surprising one:  women are far more likely to prefer that cash be allocated to more terrestrial matters, like bolstering social programs.  I also suspect there’s something of the boyish wonder at play here, as men are more likely to relish adventure and risk-taking.

Regardless, the prospect of returning to the moon inside of five years is exciting.  Even with pressing concerns here on Earth, we should continue to look outward to our Solar System.  What opportunities might it contain?  Like funding the border wall, $1.6 billion is a drop in the bucket of our federal budget.

And $5 a month is just a drop in the bucket of your household budget.  If you like the work you’ve read here at The Portly Politico, consider supporting it with a monthly subscription to my SubscribeStar page.  I’ll be posting exclusive weekly content there that you won’t want to miss.

To the Moon!

Before beginning today’s post, a quick note about last Friday night’s concert:  the whole thing came off smashingly.  My buddy John and I gave a 90-minute performance at a coffee shop in Hartsville, South Carolina, Crema Coffee Bar, where we’ve played a number of such shows in the past.

This show was, easily, the most fun I’ve had playing this particular venue, our home-away-from-home in Hartsville.  John and I took turns playing original tunes, and we both unveiled new selections, John debuting an Irish tragedy entitled “The Sailor,” and I introducing my latest irreverent comedy tune, “Private Lessons (Goth Chick).”

We also enjoyed an excellent turnout, which is not to be taken for granted.  Live music doesn’t always have the appeal it once did, and sometimes promoting a show can come across as a bit needy—“please come listen to us!”—especially as everyone you know is in a band these days.  Fortunately, our friends and fans were hugely supportive, and it seemed like a capacity crowd at the height of the show.  A YUGE “thank-you” to everyone who came out.

My next tour stop is the Juggling Gypsy in Wilmington, North Carolina, on Friday, August 3, starting around 9 PM.  You can learn more at www.tjcookmusic.com or on my Facebook page.

***

I’ve written  a bit about space exploration and the formation of Space Force on this blog, and I’ve long been an advocate semi-publicly of expansion into space.  Neil deGrasse Tyson wrote an essay in Foreign Affairs when I still subscribed to the globalist rag that had me jumping for joy.  The essay, “The Case for Space,” is one of the best apologias written for the benefits we would reap from funding additional space exploration.  Tyson is a poor political pundit, and his fanboyish acolytes are so annoying, they reflect poorly on him, but he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to space.

I’m a fiscal, as well as a social, conservative, but I’m all about spending gobs of government cash on space exploration—and colonization.  I realize I’m committing the same error everyone does—“don’t spend my tax dollars… except on all this stuff I personally like or agree with”—but I see a role for the government in space exploration that makes sense constitutionally and functionally, in a way that, say, free bus fare for war widows isn’t.

Like Newt Gingrich—the other great modern essayist on space exploration—I see expansion into space as akin to westward expansion in the nineteenth century.  There were a lot of hardy pioneers that took the risks and were “rugged individualists”—but the government granted generous loans and tracts of land to railroad companies to open up those lands.  The government—largely Republican-controlled after the American Civil War—played a role in catalyzing western expansion.

Similarly, we see a mix of entrepreneurship and government support today, although the government seems bogged down in its usual bureaucratic inefficiencies, while the hot-shot mega-billionaire flyboys are taking the major risks.  Nevertheless, Gingrich wrote over the weekend about this very topic, marking the 49th anniversary of the moon landing.

As usual, the Trump administration, as Gingrich writes, is thinking “big league” when it comes to space, and Vice President Michael Pence is heading up a revived National Space Council.  The NSC is charged with exploring placing bases on the moon to reduce the costs of launches, which would be much more fuel-efficient in the moon’s reduced gravitational field (which is one-sixth that of Earth’s).

In a larger, cultural sense—since I’m not versed enough in the technical side of this subject, I’m deflecting to where I can bloviate on slightly more solid ground—I don’t understand the disinterest in, even hostility toward, space exploration.  In general, I’m dismayed by the lack of pioneering derring-do and spirit in American culture today.  Aren’t we descended from rugged frontiersmen and women who crossed oceans, forded rivers, climbed mountains, and endured dysentery to get here?

A few years ago, I stumbled upon one of those writers I love—a slightly fringe character who writes about weird, just-outside-of-the-mainstream topics.  The author in question is James D. Heiser, a bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America and a founding member of the Mars Society, a group that aims to put Americans on Mars.

I first stumbled upon Heiser after reading a review of his book “The American Empire Should Be Destroyed”:  Alexander Dugin and the Perils of the Immanentized Eschatology, which is about the titular figure, an eccentric, Rasputin-like character who advises Vladimir Putin in some capacity.  That book led me to another Heiser work, Civilization and the New Frontier:  Reflections on Virtue and the Settlement of a New World, a collection of essays—mostly his introductory remarks at various Mars Society annual conventions—about the settlement of Mars.

The basic argument is that the quest to settle new worlds will stretch Americans not just scientifically, but spiritually:  in striving for the stars, we’ll cultivate the classical virtues that make civilization possible, and, in the process, reinvigorate our earthly civilization.

I believe there’s something to this thesis.  Struggle—be it the struggle to survive on the hostile Martian plains, or to make ends meet here on Earth—breeds growth.  Adversity is the heat that tempers the iron of the soul.

Space has much to offer:  abundant natural resources, the thrill of discovery, hot alien babes (just kidding about that last one).  But it also has the potential to inspire future generations of Americans to reach for the stars—both physically, and spiritually.